Steph Curry’s Davidson graduation is ‘remarkable.’ Now it’s time to retire his number

·4 min read

It took 13 years, but Steph Curry made good on his promise.

Curry was a baby-faced 21-year-old in 2009 when he decided to skip his senior year at Davidson College in favor of entering the NBA draft a year early.

When he did that, Curry vowed he would return to school and earn the seven courses he needed at the time to earn his degree — one day.

“One day” arrived Sunday, when Curry, now 34, was announced as a member of Davidson’s Class of 2022.

Curry wasn’t actually there. But Davidson coach Bob McKillop was, beaming with pride as he held a cardboard cutout of Curry among the five Davidson players and two Davidson men’s basketball managers who also graduated with the class of 2022.

“Steph made a commitment to Davidson and to his parents that he was going to graduate,” McKillop said in a phone interview Monday. “This was a superb, remarkable story about honoring a commitment, something that again shows that Steph prominently displays character traits that are so absent in our world today. .... He is a multi-millionaire, and yet he still takes the time to finish his education.”

The graduation should also remove the final roadblock from the retirement of Curry’s No. 30. Davidson has long had a policy of only retiring the numbers of players who graduated, even two-time NBA Most Valuable Players like Curry.

Now that Curry has a diploma, it makes all the sense in the world to officially award Curry his degree this summer following the NBA Finals and announce his number is being retired at Davidson the very same day.

That’s the way Davidson should handle it — two joyous celebrations for the price of one — and that’s the way it will likely go. Retire the man’s number, and the sooner the better.

Davidson coach Bob McKillop (left) coached former Wildcat star Steph Curry from 2006-09 at the school and said Curry’s graduation Sunday, 13 years after he left, was a “superb, remarkable story.”
Davidson coach Bob McKillop (left) coached former Wildcat star Steph Curry from 2006-09 at the school and said Curry’s graduation Sunday, 13 years after he left, was a “superb, remarkable story.”

Curry wasn’t at Sunday’s ceremony for understandable reasons, although lots of applause rang out when “Wardell Stephen Curry II” was announced as a graduate “in absentia.” Curry is in California, preparing for the Western Conference finals as his Golden State Warriors try to win their fourth NBA championship with Curry as their leader.

“There’s a valid comparison between what he has done with the Warriors and what he has done with his degree,” said McKillop, Davidson’s basketball coach for the past 33 seasons. “The Warriors became champions because Stephen led the teamwork. And because of teamwork, Stephen graduated from Davidson College. He led that charge, and he had teamwork in the process. The parallel between life and basketball, in this case, is just absolutely sensational to witness.”

On Twitter Sunday night, Curry wrote to his 16 million followers that the sociology degree he chipped away at for years was a “Dream Come True.” He also wrote: “Thanks to my whole village that helped me get across the finish line. Made the promise when I left and had to see it through. ... Momma we made it!”

Davidson and Curry made the fact that Curry was completing the final requirements for his degree in the spring semester of 2022 — while the NBA season was going on — a secret.

McKillop said he and Curry spoke around May 8 once the professors in charge of Curry’s distance learning program acknowledged that he had completed all the requirements. Another conversation came Saturday between McKillop, Curry, Davidson athletic director Chris Clunie, outgoing Davidson president Carol Quillen and Sonya Curry, Steph’s mom and a longtime educator herself.

“We just wanted to make sure we were all on the same page,” McKillop said, describing Curry as “filled with joy and emotion” about the milestone.

On graduation day Sunday, a cutout of Curry from his Davidson playing days was placed in one of the graduate’s chairs, and his name was listed in the program. “That caused a lot of chatter,” McKillop said.

Davidson basketball player Michael Jones, who just finished his career, was part of the school’s Class of 2022. So was Stephen Curry (represented by cutout), who left Davidson in 2009 but has finished his degree, 13 years later.
Davidson basketball player Michael Jones, who just finished his career, was part of the school’s Class of 2022. So was Stephen Curry (represented by cutout), who left Davidson in 2009 but has finished his degree, 13 years later.

Later, Curry’s cutout was involved in numerous pictures among the Class of 2022.

In 2009, I covered Curry’s teary news conference at Davidson when he announced he would leave Davidson a year early. His decision was correct, of course, from every financial and basketball-related standpoint. McKillop fully supported it, as did Dell Curry, Steph’s father and one of the most well-known Charlotte Hornets in franchise history.

But McKillop also said that day in 2009 of Steph: “He’s not going to have that picture of himself and his teammates in caps and gowns on graduation day. I’m sad for the incompletion of that process.”

Thirteen years later, the process has been completed.

Steph Curry is a husband, a father, a two-time MVP, a three-time NBA champion ...

And a college graduate.

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